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Bear Reviews Pope's Favorite Movie



"Iron Man" Footnoted in Bear's First Apostolic Exhortation

It takes a certain confident self-regard to footnote an Apostolic Exhortation with your favorite movie. But hey, if the Bear ever got to write one of those, it would be peppered with quotes from Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man. Like: Captain America: "Yeah, big man in a suit of armor. Take that off and what are you?" Tony Stark: "Genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist."

What would it mean? Who knows? But it cracks the Bear up every time, and he would rather be Tony Stark than anyone else in the world, because Iron Man is even more awesome than a Bear. Unless a Bear could fly and shoot lasers out of his paws. In fact, he would hire the screenwriters for the Marvel Avengers movies and let them write his Apostolic Exhortations.

Don't tell the Bear he can't do that. They would be better than that guy who wrote, "Burn Me With the Kisses of Your Mouth, Oh, Yes, Yes!" who ghosted the pope's other... thing, the title of which escapes the Bear. (And we worry so much about these bloated, wretched messes with the shelf life of fresh salmon.)

By now, you are no doubt familiar with the Bear's lengthy, self-indulgent introductions to his articles. So accompany the Bear as we walk together, discussing the Pope's supposedly favorite movie, "Babette's Feast." The Bear even watched somewhere between "some" and "much" to qualify himself as a reviewer.

Babette's Feast

"Babette's Feast" is a movie made in the second half of the last century in a foreign language. Maybe because it is set in Sweden, or some other gray, cold place. The main characters are some sort of crazy Puritan Prophet and his two spinster daughters. Under the baleful influence of a joyless religion with a bunch of rules (get it?) everybody wears black and makes themselves miserable. A bowl of tepid gruel is as close as they get to a good time.

The film's slow pace, excessive use of voiceovers, self-conscious artsiness and drab palette actually makes the viewer experience the depression of the island's religious (get it?) inhabitants.

Then the eponymous Babette shows up, having escaped from the Russian Revolution. She works as the spinsters' housekeeper in return for room and board. But every month, Babette buys one Powerball ticket, always playing her birthday.

SPOILER ALERT

In a completely surprising twist, Babette wins 650,000,000 kroners in the lottery. Babette could do anything. Get away from the awful town and creepy religious people who lack joy, for example. The Bear sure would, maybe eating them all first to put them out of their religion-induced misery. ("Bear's Feast.")

Then the pastor, who has always been suspicious of Babette and her chocolate shop, which is right across the street from his joyless religious church guiltily samples the chocolate and is transported with delight.

Hold on, that's another marginally better foreign movie about up-tight religious people.

To be honest, the Bear snoozed a bit, but, judging by the rest of the movie, is fairly certain nothing happened.

So then Babette blows all her winnings to prepare a big feast for the creepy religious cultists. Since the feast is ostensibly to celebrate the 100th birthday of the original Prophet, the townsfolk pretty much have to attend. But they devise a clever scheme to stay true to their joyless religion full of rules.

They agree to pretend not to enjoy themselves. As a member in good standing of a joyless religion full of rules, the Bear must say this is the stupidest thing he's ever seen. What, we joyless religious types can wallow in the fleshpots of Egypt, just as long as we act like we're having a bad time? We're supposed to believe that this somehow would make sense to tepid-gruel slurping fanatics?

The Bear stopped watching and put a frozen pizza in the oven. It was great. He never got around to watching the rest of the movie, but assumes the joyless religious people had their lives changed by the selfless act of Babette's Feast.

The Bear gives the pretentious, heavy-handed and boring "Babette's Feast" two out of five fish.

"Babette's Feast" isn't anyone's favorite movie. It's one of those movies people say is their favorite movie when they want to impress you, like "Au Revoir les Infants" (not that it's a bad film). "Babette's Feast" is slow, drab, emotionally low, odd, predictable and moralistic in that way filmmakers love where the cool non-religious outsider comes in to shake joyless religious people out of their joylessness through chocolate ("Chocolat") or dancing ("Footloose") or feasting, and above all, their genuineness and/or natural non-religious goodness.

 "Iron Man." Just being honest.

Comments

  1. I thought I recognized "Chocolat" in there (I shudder at the memory of that shallow, defamatory, mendacious piece of chocolate-covered tripe).

    Isn't it remarkable that those supposedly grim, uptight, miserable, rule-bound Catholic countries have managed to produce some of the most soaringly beautiful music and art -- and some of the most MOUTH-WATERINGLY DELICIOUS FOOD -- the world has ever known?

    Go figure, huh? But I guess these cinematic wunderkinds would theorize that said achievements were a needed outlet in a sexually repressed culture. A culture that, paradoxically, encouraged married couples to have lots of children, and not via IVF. (Oops -- never mind.)

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  2. Dear Bear~ I must write briefly for I fear that the indigestion from the "it is not really magisterial"^tm Amoris Laetitia is poisoning what should be a tasty morsel. "Babette's Feast" isn't for everyone but it is not at all moralism vs.whatever. The movie never says that the moralism of the Dutch Pietist village is wrong or bad and the movie ends with the upholding and renewing of that way of life. I really cannot see how "Babette's Feast" could be Pope Francis' favorite movie. Perhaps the Spanish translation is just that far off. I have shown this movie to several people, and what tends to put people off is the the rigorism/moralism at the end is upheld and reward through transformation and renewal by Babette's actions. The village does fall into a sort of despair, but this despair comes not from the rigorism but from the anti-incarnational and anti-sacramental nature that lies within such a worldview. Babette and her action in bringing about the feast, represent both the in breaking of the eschaton into the middle of time -- that which the villagers have so longed for comes as a foretaste which renews their lives and allows them to refocus on their particular way of life. The villagers are no less "dogmatic" at the end then at the beginning. Babette also represent humility and obedience -- she serves the daughters completely and empties all for the sake of her new family. She functions as both a Christlike figure and a Marian figure.

    But again, I cannot see how someone would like this movie if they think piety, rule following, and that living a life of ideals is a bad thing.

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    1. Your perspective is appreciated. But the Bear kept waiting for something to happen in Babette's Feast, like when Tony Stark's Iron Man suit runs out of power when he's, like, ten miles high.

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    2. Reading your comment about waiting for something to *happen*, I can't help thinking of a story one of my friends told me ...

      She and a friend of hers took their children to see "The Nutcracker" at Christmas. My friend has two girls and her friend has two boys. They all sat and watched, the boys appeared to enjoy it, and then they all went out to eat. At the table, during a lull in the adults' conversation, the two women heard one of the boys heave a great sigh and say, "What a waste. All those soldiers and only one battle!"

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  3. The chocolate movie wasn't great, but a lot more entertaining and fun than watching the dreary Babette's Feast. Also more fun to look at Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.

    But back in the 90's (or was it the 80's) I remember pretending to think that Babette's Feast was just the most wonderful movie ever.
    Same for TheEnglish Patient which you couldn't pay me to sit through again.

    Seattle kim

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    1. The Bear actually had a reference to Juliette Binoche, but he took it out because he was afraid his former driver, bodyguard, and factotum, Red Death, a.k.a. the Shepherdess, a.k.a. his mate, would take it the wrong way.

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    2. She was in The 33 too. Played a lowly street taco seller. I highly recommend.

      Sorry Red Death is jealous. Mr Seattle Kim and I are free to speak our minds about which celebrities are hot cuz we both know there's no way either of us would have a chance in hell with them.

      Seattle Kim

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    3. Talking Bears are like catnip to women. Strange, but true. And we don't call her Red Death for nothing. She was the bodyguard of a BEAR. Think about that.

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  4. Best foreign film (according to moi)---My Life as a Dog. I get choked up just thinking about it.

    Seattle kim

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  5. The congregation in the bleak and dreary village are Protestants who have the words of the Bible, a memory of the will of the long-gone pastor who gathered them together, and a strong distaste for anything delightful, overly enthusiastic, or, in their eyes, frivolous.

    They are not bad people in either the original Isak Dinesen short story or the faithful screenplay, but they are for the most part rather rigid and closed. They have few sacraments and consider Catholicism to be almost devilish. In any case, they are missing something.

    Babette, on the other hand, IS a Catholic, as is the exuberant opera singer Monsieur Papin who has saved her life by sending her away from the failed historical rebellion in France (in which she lost her family) to the good sisters, who had themselves turned down opportunities for love and acclaim in order to stay with their father and continue his mission in their village.

    Babette is not irreligious; she represents a balanced soul who though sorrowing in private rises every day to its challenges as a wise and worthy servant. She makes a necessary function of life-- preparing food, primarily-- into a grace-filled act through love and art. In many shots of her, the director ensures that a crucifix can be seen somewhere onscreen.

    The dinner she prepares is something of a Last Supper, a sacrifice made out of love which ironically allows her to become once again the great culinary artist she has always been, and which God intended, one final time. A general who knows of the world is the audience's key to understand the quality of the meal, and if we have been paying attention we learn that true forgiveness is at play, too, as the general had been a young officer under the commander who quashed the Paris rebellion and executed Babette's husband and young son... even more tragic when the general reveals that commander had been a great admirer of Babette's talent, yet had unwittingly destroyed all she had in life.

    The film also makes explicit that even if we seem to have hidden our personal talents under a bushel, if we have done so in order to sacrifice ourselves for others and for God, as Babette and the elderly sisters who employ her have done, a generous, merciful, and boundless Lord does not let any thing go to waste should we deny ourselves on behalf of others. Our good deeds and worth may be unnoticed or sacrificed on earth, but we will still "delight the angels." That is the basis of the Pope's reference and quote in the exhortation.

    The film may seem heavy on narration, but that is to proudly and deliberately capture the voice of the short story's famous author, as well as guide the audience through the structure of the film, most of which is told in flashback. In fact, the film's very first scene is chronologically its last scene; though we don't know it, all the characters we see at the beginning have been touched by God's grace (for in spite of themselves the meal, especially through its various wines, overwhelms and warms them). They become healed, more open, more Christian, and, without realizing it, more Catholic.

    I would imagine that is why the Holy Father has always liked it and worked it into the exhortation.

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    1. Very well done.

      The Bear still doesn't think one or two helicopter explosions is too much to ask for, however.

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    2. This exactly captures my reaction upon watching Babette's Feast, except I am not nearly so eloquent. I thought it was quite a Catholic film, affirming the goodness of Creation against those who empty it of all its joys. But yes, a suitably artistic helicopter explosion here and there would not have gone amiss.

      Also, as Liam Ronan points out below, the Holy Father's baffling affection for Lord of the World might caution us against trying to read too much into his stated preferences. Perhaps Archbishop Fernandez wrote that bit.

      On the other hand, if I were pope (Martin VI, in honor of today), I would certainly draw upon the immense artistic resources of Zoolander, and I would take great care in composing eugooglies.

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    3. Since the Chuch only came into existence three years ago, perhaps it would be proper to use only pop culture authorities.

      And I wish I could believe that Pope Francis did not see in the joyless heretics the Church, and Babette as himself.

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    4. For exploding helicopters and Iron Man, how about "Tropic Thunder," the Ben Stiller war film satire with Robert Downey, Jr. as an Australian method actor who has his skin tinted and loses himself in the part of a Black soldier in Vietnam? Sadly, the only bear involved is a vicious panda, but there is a clear Catholic connection that can make it into the next exhortation, as Tom Cruise is obviously the Devil in the role of a Hollywood producer, and Matthew McConaughey plays a repentant Judas.

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    5. Tropic Thunder could be added to the very long list of movies better than Babette's Feast. As for pandas, not Bears. Now I know what you're going to say, "But now scientists say..." Trust me, not Bears.

      As for movies worse than Babette's Feast, we could say anything directed by Lars von Trier, the Bear's favorite director to hate.

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  6. As fate would have it, my wife purchased that DVD for me days after Bergolio first emerged on the balcony as she read it was his favourite film and she presupposed I would enjoy it in oblique solidarity with the humble man.

    Egad! What a stultifying, mind-numbing, marionette-like production, plot, and performance. One of the worst movies I have ever watched and I long afterward heaped abuse on myself for the precious time I wasted trying to ascribe purpose and meaning to a narrative that had none.

    You may know, or would be curious to know, that the same actress who played humble and generous 'Babette', Stephane Audran, also played the adulterous mistress of Lord Marchmain, Cara, in 'Brideshead Revisited'.

    I did, however, have a copy of Bergolio's reputedly 'favourite' read, 'The Lord of the World', given to me as well. I found the book frighteningly and cannily apocalyptic.

    Bergolio's taste in film contrasted with his reputed taste in literature strikes me as schizophrenic.

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    1. Clearly the holy Father did not make it to the end of the book.

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    2. Mister Francis and the Church of the New Man. But when is Pope Sylvester III to come?

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  7. Oh wow---I am halfway through the movie Brideshead Revisited. That's Babette?! Thanks for letting me know, Liam!

    Seattle Kim

    Seattle Kim

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    1. Sad essay at Rorate Caeli in which a young priest asks if the exhortation has killed the relevance of "Brideshead Revisited," Kim.

      http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2016/04/guest-op-ed-pope-francis-pro-mundum.html?m=1

      I remember when the mini-series came out; now that was a time when Catholicism seemed "cool again," to coin a phrase.

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    2. I should say I was referring to the 11-episode 1981 TV series with Jeremy Irons (as Charles Ryder) and Laurence Olivier (as Lord Marchmain)not the disappointing 2008 movie remake. Greta Scacchi played 'Cara' in that effort.

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    3. Another book the Bear has tried to get through in every format available: print, audiobook and the film version with Jeremy Irons, who wasn't anyone special at the time.

      It should be called "Memorable Food I Have Eaten." Page after page of tedious descriptions of food the Bear has never imagined.. "Then the witty, if rather naughty Babette, began the 78-course meal in her apartment, cooked entirely over a hot plate in one pan (how she did it, I shall never know) with hummingbird tongues on emmer -- a tetraploid (2n=4x=28 chromosomes) -- wheat lightly spread with marmite, which we washed down with great quantities of genuine ancient Egyptian beer, which we drank through straws, as was the custom, or, rather, the necessity, due to the thickness of the rare brew. I did not ask, but supposed her connections at the British Museum had provided the wonderful, malty beverage; not strong alcoholically, perhaps, but rich in history of the land of Pharaoh, and of the Hebrew slaves who possibly -- it was an enchanting idea, if unlikely -- had something to do with the present experience. Suddenly, I was transported to another dinner, in Italy, in the private apartments of King Umberto I, before his despicable assassination in the first year of what would prove to be something of a damp squib of a century..."

      Yep. Bear knows it's like the Best Catholic Novel Ever, but finds it highly overrated.

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    4. I respectfully disagree, Bear. I believe it has earned its acclaim. It is a matter of personal preference.

      I am one of those who, when taken by a book, re-read it many times over throughout my life. I suppose the book, or books, I have most frequently read were written by the Russian author Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokov, i.e. "And Quiet Flows the Don (1934)"; "The Don Flows Home to the Sea"; and "Harvest on the Don". Cossack family caught up in the Russian Revolution, Civil War, and ultimately, collectivization.

      I would estimate I have read all three a dozen times. Fascinating read, great characterization, plot, and action.

      I believe it is available as an e-book. Well worth the time and commitment.

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    5. Sounds interesting. Cossacks are rarely protagonists. The Bear's favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov.

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    6. There were the Reds and the Whites even among the Cossacks, Bear.

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    7. Of course. (The Bear was there, remember.) But their reputation is as the muscle that was called in when the masses got too uppity.

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    8. Ah! Bad rap, Bear. A few pogroms certainly, but in fairness you will remember the matter of the Don Cossack, Yemelyan Ivanovich Pugachev, and his rebellion which nearly overthrew the monarchy but alas cost him his head.

      Pushkin wrote of him.

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    9. Pushikin liked feet, too. Maybe he should be Pope Francis' favorite author.

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    10. The Bear will wait for the Brideshead Revisited -- Not So Much Food Edition.

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  8. Speaking of art forms (movies, paintings,etc)---very recently a Caravaggio painting of Julia beheading Holefernes was discovered. Can't wait till some clever blogger superimposes Frank's face on Holefernes' head.

    Seattle Kim

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  9. I don't think I ever hated a book more than Anna Karenina which I read in high school or loved a book as much as I loved Les Miserables which I also read in high school. Thank you, Mrs. Lagen, you were the best English teacher evah!

    Seattle kim

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    1. Bear is more of a Dostoyevski kind of Bear than a Tolstoy one.

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  10. One of the things which occurred to me about Babette's Feast which redeems the message a bit is the idea that Babette is a Catholic, and that her feast was somewhat sacramental, bringing life and joy to the dour Puritanical heretics as an act of sacrifice and love on her part for their behalf. For a time that little community through this feast, was resurrected to life and joy, and it was a meal prepared with as much care as a well-done liturgy with rules and procedures which, if not followed according to the rubrics of her art, would be a disaster. I see the movie as being very pro-Church.

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  11. You might find it interesting that the director of the film Babette's Feast was an advocate of pornography. In 1968 he made "Danish Blue", a feature film that was a propaganda piece for porn.

    As for some people's belief that Babette should be viewed as a Christ figure, that is complete nonsense. See my review at: http://the-pious-spinster.blogspot.com/2011/03/babettes-gstebud-1987.html

    A few more bits of information: The setting of Babette's Feast is Jutland in Denmark. Babette was in flight from one phase of the French revolution, not the Russian Revolution. The members of the religious group were pietist Lutheran Christians. The Pietists were rather "monastic" in many ways and would have made good Catholics if properly instructed.

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    1. The Bear found your review very well done. Thank you. It wasn't as funny as the Bear's, and could have been improved with more Iron Man references, but he suspects you were writing a legitimate review. The Bear is just another Talking Bear act.

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  12. Brideshead Revisited is my favorite book. Read it three times. Sublime.

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  13. As to the factual elements of the review, the Bear has his own style, and there is always a method to his madness.

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  14. Another thing--Babette was an idiot. While grateful to the Protestants, she should have used the money to establish her independence and to help other people in her same plight. The feast was a waste of money.

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    1. You're missing that she did it for her "art" -- it was self-gratification. That's the whole point!

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  15. If anyone reads these comments, the Bear records for posterity that he has never enjoyed comments on a piece more than these! Thank you, quite sincerely. The superiority of the Bear's readership is established beyond question.

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  16. It had been my hope earlier today to mention how welcome your blog has been, especially the Bear and St Corbinian stories which helped me and my fiancée through Lent. We hope you do consider turning them into a book. Thank you.

    You will not be surprised to learn, Bear, that Isak Dinesen wrote "Babette's Feast" when a friend bet her she couldn't sell an American magazine a story about food.

    Nor that Waugh wrote "Brideshead Revisited" in part because he was personally acquainted with a beautiful English manor house. The house was Castle Howard, which served as the filming location for Brideshead in both the TV miniseries and the less successful movie... so the house played itself.

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    1. Thank you for the compliments, and also the trivia. Sometimes I think Pope Francis' whole plan is to keep ephemerists so busy with him they don't have time to relax and make books and such. They say what you pay attention to gets stronger, and that may be true. Being an ephemerist is a bargain with the Devil.

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  17. I think i am so lucky i found such a quality post very easy way.Thanks admin for this kind of post.This kind of post make more value for internet user. usa gov jobs

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    1. The Bear compliments you on your command of the English language. It is gratifying to see spamming jobs kept right here at home, instead of Malaysia or some other south Asian Hell hole.

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